In Richmond, The Plot Thickens

On 1/25/2012 we examined a developing situation in Virginia about a state delegate from Richmond, G. Manoli Loupassi, who was proposing legislation (HB 1254) that would prevent professional orchestra musicians from collecting unemployment benefits during weeks they were not employed. One unanswered question at that time was how Loupassi became involved in the matter to begin with but we now have an answer.

According to an email message from Rep. Loupassi in response to a constituent’s inquiry on the matter, the issue was brought to his attention by the Richmond (VA) Symphony Orchestra (RSO) executive director, David Fisk.

A copy of the email thread appeared in my inbox shortly after the original article was published and since then, I have confirmed the content with Rep. Loupassi’s constituent who initiated the exchange.

From: Manoli Loupassi [mailto:manoli@[addresss removed].com]
Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2012
To: [Name Removed]
Subject: Re: HB 1254

This information was brouht [sic] to me by Mr. Fisk at the Richmond Synphony[sic], if I am made aware of any abuses, I will seek to address them. I appreciate your thoughts. Manoli

I contacted David Fisk for a response to Rep. Loupassi’s message indicating that he was the individual who brought this to his attention but at the time this article was published, he has yet to respond. If he does by the end of business today, his reply will be published as an update to this article, if it arrives afterward, it will be published as a follow-up article.

At this point, it’s safe to say that the revelation inspires more questions than it answers; so until those transpire, what are your thoughts and observations? Do you have any questions beyond those above?

I encourage everyone so inclined to leave a comment but please keep the discussion civil and refrain from personal attacks or presenting opinion and/or unsubstantiated information as verified facts. There’s nothing wrong with asking tough questions, offering up opinions, or engaging other readers with straightforward replies but be very clear and always opt for the high road throughout the conversation.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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0 thoughts on “In Richmond, The Plot Thickens”

  1. Good morning Drew. I’m not shocked by the revelation that a wealthy and influential constituent was able to virtually write his own piece of legislation. What shocks me is that Mr. Fisk went after a mere state rep. Was this a strategic move to keep this under the radar? If I were doing something like this I would aim higher.

  2. Is the reported $70,000 the RSO will save worth the bitter divisiveness and ill-will Mr. Fisk has caused within his own orchestra?

    Is there a reason symphony musicians are singled out from among other “seasonal” workers in Rep. Loupassi’s bill? That makes the bill look like mean-spirited grandstanding.

  3. Looks now more like a story of a tattle-tell and his political buddy making a campfire to roast some marshmallows.

    Behind-the-scenes, an orchestra manager brings something to the attention of a legislator, perhaps knowing full well that it would raise ire and a political ruckus – especially in our current political climate. It feeds directly into the current anti-union sentiment being trumpeted about in politics and the media.

    Diabolical and politically brilliant, but as an earlier comment noted, not a surprise. One cannot help but wonder what is the nature of the relationship is between Fisk and Loupassi and how that might play into the bigger picture.

  4. So if I’m interpreting this correctly, there are some huge cuts in the near future for the Virginia Symphony, but Mr. Fisk doesn’t want to soften the blow for the musicians by being responsible for unemployment taxes. So he goes to a state representative and asks him to introduce legislature that will allow him to balance the orchestra’s budget on the backs of the musicians with complete impunity. Did he really think he could do this without someone noticing?

  5. I agree with this being diabolical, but politically brilliant might be an overstatement.
    Making the musicians look bad is synonymous with making the orchestra look bad.
    David Fisk created a lose-lose situation for all involved. It won’t even serve his own
    interest, as this will most definitely hurt our local govt funding, negating and probably
    overshadowing the 70 grand he saves the organization.

  6. I would like to inform all Adaptistration readers that although the Richmond Symphony and the Virginia Symphony are both full-time orchestras located in the state of Virginia, they are completely separate organizations.

    Brian’s comment above says that there are huge cuts in the near future for the Virginia Symphony; this is incorrect.

    The VSO, based in Norfolk, Virginia, 90 miles east of Richmond, is not in negotiations. Our current cba runs through 2014.

    However, needless to say, many VSO musicians would be affected should this bill become law.

  7. This whole thing was so ugly and underhanded. Plotting in secret and then throwing it on the musicians when they are well into the season working hard and practicing hours. This is not the way to keep great music for music lovers. If this had to be, it should have been negotiated in the open and explained why (I still don’t know the answer to that) the musicians were targeted. This is not a civil way to handle this and is insulting to our musicians. Vote NO for this bill. This is what we are trying to change with our government. No more underhanded, secret plots to benefit their own agendas. Thanks. Sonja Hardison

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